The ECOWAS Court of Justice has awarded $80,000 in favour of a former police officer as compensation for his undue retirement in1990, about 31 years ago.

The award is to be paid to the ex-police officer, Evaristus Egbebu, by the Nigerian government, which was the respondent in the case instituted by him.

At the official exchange rate of N410 to $1, the $80,000 award amounts to about N32.7 million. But at the parallel market’s exchange rate of N502 to $1, the money translates to about N39.8million.

The court, in its Friday judgement, read by a member of the panel of judges, Gberi-be Ouattara, ordered that Mr Egbebu be awarded the monetary compensation for the “moral prejudice and all other losses suffered as a result of the violation of his rights related to his compulsory retirement in 1990.”

According to the regional court, Mr Egbebu’s rights were established to have been violated under Articles 3(2) of the International Covenant on Civil Political Rights (ICCPR) and 7(1) (d) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and denied the applicant the right to be tried in due time.

Having established this, the ECOWAS court declined the applicant’s request to enforce the 2009 judgement of a Nigerian High Court which ordered his reinstatement to his appropriate rank in force “without loss of seniority, the payment of his salary and emoluments from November 27, 1990 date of the compulsory retirement until February 19, 2009.”

A press release received by PREMIUM TIMES from the information unit of the ECOWAS Court Monday night, did not state if the panel of judges gave what Mr Egbebu’s rank was at the time of his forceful retirement in their judgment.

But the statement said the court established that the officer joined the force in August 1978 but was “compulsorily retired” from service on November 27, 1990.

‘Applicant frustrated by Nigerian authorities’

The panel, which has Dupe Atoki (Nigeria) and Edward Asante (presiding) as members, noted that the applicant’s efforts to “secure compliance with his judgment by recourse to the domestic mechanisms have been frustrated by the respondent when his contempt application, which sought to compel the relevant agents of the respondent to execute the judgment, was held in abeyance.”

“It is unambiguously clear, contrary to what the respondent wants the Court to believe, that the appropriate measures were not taken by the competent Authorities of the Respondent to give effect to the judgment of 19 February 2009.

“When the applicant initiated the proceedings to compel them to do the needful, his efforts have been unreasonably and unjustifiably frustrated by the Respondent’s judicial officers,” Mr Ouattara noted.

He held that the relevant authorities of the Nigerian government, tasked to effect the earlier High Court judgement in favour of Mr Egbebu, refused to comply. This made the applicant serve five (5) written reminders, demanding compliance, to no avail.

The officer was also compelled to petition the “National Human Rights Commission which also wrote in support of the enforcement of the decision.”

Nigerian government’s preliminary objection dismissed

However, the Nigeria government’s defence team, in its preliminary objections, argued that the Protocol that established the ECOWAS Court and the rules of the court could not be applied “retroactively” – to events that happened previously.

It also argued that “human rights, whose protection is sought, are raised as incidental and not as the main issue.”

Dismissing the objections raised by the Nigeria government, however, the ECOWAS Court noted that it draws its “jurisdiction to examine human rights violation cases in ECOWAS Member States from the 2005 Supplementary Protocol A/SP.1/01/05 of 19th January 2005, which came into force on the same date, as well as from its Rules adopted on 3rd June 2002.”

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